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The Degrees of Murder in the State of Florida

In the state of Florida, there are three different degrees of murder. These degrees are dependent on how the crime takes place and determine the outcome of the sentencing. The circumstances around the situation can have a large effect on how the case is handled in court.

The Types of Murder According to Florida Statutes

· First-degree murder is defined as any intentional murder that is willful and premeditated. A felony murder charge that may be filed against a defendant who is involved in a dangerous crime where a death results from the crime is also typically first-degree.

· Second-degree murder is when evidence lacks the premeditation element needed for a first-degree murder and shows that the defendant acted according to a "depraved mind" without regard for human life.

· Third-degree murder occurs when a person unintentionally kills another person while committing, or attempting to commit, a non-violent felony.

Note: Only three states have a third-degree murder law (Florida, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania).

Proving the Degrees of Murder in Florida

For a first-degree murder, premeditation and deliberation must be proven. This does not mean that a specific amount of time must be involved in the planning. All that is needed is enough time to consciously form a plan to commit the act with the intent to kill while also having enough time for a reasonable person to stop themselves from committing such an act.

To prove second-degree murder, it must be proven that the person in question acted with a "depraved mind" without regard for human life. According to Florida state laws, the prosecution of second-degree murder when the killing lacked premeditation or planning, but the defendant acted with enmity toward the victim or the two had an ongoing interaction or relationship. Second-degree murder does not need to show intent to kill.

When it comes to a third-degree murder, the lines are very different. Often called a "crime of passion," it can be a killing that results from the head of the moment due to negligence or recklessness. Severe mental and emotional stress are typically involved in these types of crimes. A case of a cheating spouse or partner would be a prime example.

The Sentencing for Different Degrees of Murder as Defined by Florida Law

  • First-degree murder (up to 30 years in prison, up to $10,000 in fines)
  • First-degree capital murder (possibility of the death penalty) when committed by someone perpetrating (or attempting to perpetrate) trafficking, arson, sexual battery, robbery, burglary, kidnapping, escape, aggravated child abuse, aggravated elder abuse, aircraft piracy, use of an incendiary device, carjacking, home invasion, aggravated stalking, murder of another individual, resisting an officer with violence, aggravated fleeing or eluding with serious bodily injury or death, felony terrorism, or unlawful narcotics distribution. This is considered a first-degree murder.
  • First-degree murder (up to life in prison) if, while in the commission of any of the above felonies, another individual (accomplice) commits murder. Charged as first-degree murder.

· Second degree murder (up to 15 years in prison) for attempted second-degree murder resulting in injury to another person.

· Third-degree murder (up to 15 years in prison, 15 years of probation, and a $10,000 fine) is a second-degree felony in Florida.

A murder charge can often result in the death penalty, making it very important to have the right legal counsel to assist you with your case. If you or a loved one has been accused of committing a murder in the state of Florida, you have the right to defend yourself. Consider scheduling an appointment with an experienced criminal defense attorney to see how they can help.

References:

Florida Second Degree Murder Laws. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://statelaws.findlaw.com/florida-law/florida-second-degree-murder-laws.html

First Degree Murder Overview. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-charges/first-degree-murder-overview.html

US Legal, Inc. (n.d.). Third Degree Murder Law and Legal Definition. Retrieved from https://definitions.uslegal.com/t/third-degree-murder/

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